Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ball State Libraries' Displays Promote Collection

Ball State University Libraries’ collections contain resources that touch on every topic imaginable. The challenge for librarians is how to expose students, faculty, and community members to the breadth of the collections in a way that captures their interests and imagination without diverting them from their primary research needs.

On some level, this is the same dilemma faced by retail storeowners who must market a large inventory to consumers who are often focused only on a specific purchase.

While a library is far different from a commercial business, the University Libraries have seen positive benefits from developing eye-catching displays similar to retailers. Visitors to the main lobby can browse from a table of books and media chosen by librarians on topics relevant to the season or corresponding to commemorations designated by Congress or others.

For example, a recent display acknowledged the start of the semester with a collection of items on developing good study skills. Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, prompted an array of notable books receiving challenges, such as The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. Of increasingly timely interest is Bracken Library’s current display of resources on elections and issues which the candidates are discussing.

Library users are often seen thumbing through titles, and the presence of empty book holders confirms that titles make their way into stacks of items being checked out.

In addition, the Libraries’ specialized collections regularly draw attention to materials in their areas by mounting topic-specific displays. The Architecture Library is currently featuring titles on sustainability in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. The Educational Resources Collections are featuring colorful exhibitions of 3-D realia in addition to books of interest to young students. Spooky topics are in vogue as Halloween approaches.

Attractive posters and book jackets are displayed elsewhere in the University Libraries and prompt requests for items. Throughout, the approach is to appeal to students and faculty where they are – pausing to meet a classmate, waiting for the elevator, passing through the halls – and draws attention to topics and resources that might be of interest. It is a low-key method that has successfully garnered results and positive comments.

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